Thursday, October 31, 2013

sometimes it's the little things

It's the little things that can make me happy... you know, like a new-to-me sink faucet :)  My parents passed down a barely used (yes, women can still change their mind even when they are grandma-aged... love you, mom!) faucet that has been in my attic awaiting installation for a few months. We thought it'd be an easy swap, but alas our under-sink pipes were too short and/or the faucet hose too short, blah blah. All I heard was, "We can't do this by ourselves," and tried to remain calm and patient :) My husband can verify whether I succeeded or not, but I am happy to report that with some time, effort and love put in by my father in law (thank you, sir!) I now have a shiny new upgraded faucet. I mean it even has the pull-out head and two options for water flow! And an under sink mounted soap dispenser? Swoon. LOL. I write this blog post sort of in jest, but I really am delighted with this small change.

Maybe now I won't complain about having to do dishes.

Well. Maybe.

Have you made any small but mighty changes recently in your house?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

hammock camping

Does your family go camping? 

We have gone camping three of the past five weekends! We have just been taken in with the cooler temps, the falls colors, and just good ole outside family time! We live about an hour away from a number of campground options. Go another hour to two hours out and we can be smack in the middle of some super big mountains.

Our family hammock-camps. Basically, that means we spend our nights in a hammock instead of a tent or camper. When I tell people that, I hear one of two questions. 1 - What if you fall out? and 2 - What if bugs crawl on you? Well, to address those... you just don't fall out! ... and there is a net over our hammock to keep out said creepy crawly things! All four of us have a hammock set up (a tarp and hammock with a bugnet). Even my three year old has no trouble in a hammock by himself. He really enjoys it.

You can see an example of how we've all hung at one of our trips this year (my son and I are the two in the middle, close enough to peek out at each other).

This fall, thanks to my parents taking our children for a four-day weekend, my husband and I were able to go hammock-camping by ourselves. It was gorgeous! Brisk and chilly as all get out at night, but beautiful. The sun shining through the colors on the trees just testified of our Creator's artistic touch in His creation. Here's a quick little collage of some photos I took:

On our way back through WV to get the children and continue home, we stopped in Lewisburg, WV (voted "America's Coolest Small Town").  Stopped in a local bicycle shop (where my husband admired a few bikes), as well as a few little boutiques and other shops including this tiny hole-in-the-wall (like, almost literally) used bookstore. We opened the door to what you see in my photo on the left. It was sooo neat. They were actually sort of categorized, with shelves labeled. The categories were random and randomly placed, but I was impressed how many books were crammed into such a small shop. We helped out the local economy by purchasing a few books as well as stopping for two danishes at the bakery next door. ;)
It was such a treat to have a weekend away. I came back last week refreshed and the kiddos surprisingly settled back into the school routine seamlessly after their "fall break" long weekend off too. 

What kinds of things do you do as a family get-away? As a couples get-away? Do you make time to take a break from schooling, either as a family or couple?

p.s. If you have any questions on hammock camping, I'd be happy to try and answer :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

knitting update

Anyone interested in how our scarf service project is progressing?

Here are a few shots of completed... 

(This is L's second scarf.)

(Hers and mine: The light doesn't really do the color justice. These are softer colors, very pretty in person.)

and what's in the midst of being created...

So, we are well on our way. 4 of the 6 we promised to make are done. We are on track to surpassing that goal and sending in more than that, by January (which is super exciting to me as L has really taken off with this service project).

I had started by using the round loom for my work, but found that the straight loom really does produce a more typical scarf design. I think a traditional knitting with needles would give a tighter stitch (maybe? Anyone out there knit?), but the loom is giving us a good introduction to the idea. I do have knitting needles. Maybe once we make our six, we could look up some videos on knitting with them. L has shown an interest and once upon a time I did know a few basic stitches. Homeschool art and service and some fun mother/daughter time. We've really enjoyed it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

taking stock

Do you know what's in your pantry?

No. I mean like honestly.

Have you ever taken an inventory of what foods you have on hand already and/or taken a month just to eat from what you already have stock-piled?

I was reading over at Living Well, Spending Less and came across her 31 days series on living well and spending zero. The idea on this series is to spend no money during the month, except on monthly (utility/mortgage) bills. Seems impossible, doesn't it? She has 31 neat ideas, but days 2 and 3 caught my attention. They deal with taking an inventory of your pantry and freezer and then coming up with meals using those foods (only). Check them out, as she has some nice little printables to help categorize, if you have a lot to sort through. I don't really have many extras in the pantry and am doubtful I could live an entire month on foods I already have, but I do have great starts to meals that there is no excuse not to use. Also, I did found out that I have about a dozen little marinate and seasoning packets! Those can definitely be easily put to use.

I got Z involved in this project. He had a blast emptying the pantry shelves and putting all the food out on the table for me to go through. He really steps up to tasks that require assisting me with something. I want to continue to cultivate that willing heart and thanked him for his selfless help (and his strong muscles, as he lifted some heavy bags and cans from up high).

By the end of the day, I have a clean, reorganized pantry and am ready to sit down and meal plan from things I have on hand. I will have to involve L in this part of the process.

It's so great when school and life merge. Home skills are never to be underestimated in importance. :)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

by sight

After being so quiet around here, I thought I'd better hop back on and review a little of our preschool work over the past few days. 

Unit 9 finished up discussing the spies being sent into Canaan. Oh what wonderfully huge grapes and beautiful land... but, wait were those giants we spied? Maybe we shouldn't go into this land even though God promised it to us... They sure do look like mean, tough opponents...           
(photo: my son practiced his letter "g," which I thought turned out really well actually, and then he added a smiley face, which then caused him to want to make it a "smiley balloon." Love to see where their little creative minds take them.)

Now, I just have to stop and give God glory for all the connections He is so gracious to make. This preschool lesson came just before my M.O.M.S. group taught on David and Goliath. Where's the tie-in between David/Goliath and the spies sent into Canaan, you ask? Well. Just as the Israelites were nervous (practically paralyzed) about entering the promised land and made judgement calls based on what they saw with their (the spies') eyes, the Israelite army facing Goliath and the Philistines were making those "by-sight" assumptions as well. 

The problem comes when we size up a situation (seemingly hopeless or otherwise) by sight alone. Do we become so overwhelmed by where our "what ifs" take us that we forget what we know about God? In the case of the Isrealites at the brink of the promised land, they had God's promise to be delivered from slavery into a land just for them. I am guilty of their sin of disbelief. They didn't expect to meet opposition. I can just hear them, "What? We have to fight other people to obtain this land? I thought God was going to give us land!" When trouble crops up, it's like it negates God's promise. But that's not true. There are so many amazing promises in the Bible. As His daughter, He is with me wherever I go (Joshua 1:9). He promises to keep me in perfect peace if my mind is stayed on Him (Isaiah 26:3-4). These are just two of my favorites. :) So why do I get caught up in what I perceive of a situation instead of what I know of God?

Deep, right? 
Ok, back to school work... we "spied" around the house (not hard to convince a three year old to do that!) and carried in the oh-so-heavy bunch of grapes strung across our shoulders (aka a purple scarf of mine hung over the rod of a stick horse). 
Then we talked about how our actions have consequences. Just like the Isrealites' disbelief and disobedience caused them 40 more years of wandering and losing out on entering the land, we can make good or bad choices both of which have consequences. Acting out in anger and hitting his sister, has "not fun" consequences (spanking, time away from playing etc). Choosing to set the table for dinner without being asked, has some "fun" consequences (feeling good about honoring our family, eating on time etc). 

The next lesson covered Joshua leading the next generation of people finally into the land. Z cut out and glued, counting all 10 people for our number sheet. 

I will leave this one hung up for a little while, then go ahead and staple it, the nine previous pages, together to make a little counting book. It will also be neat to review our Bible stories with the objects on the number page too. I look forward to seeing what he remembers of each unit based on the number pages. I am sure he will surprise me. I am constantly amazed by what 3.5 year olds can retain!

Friday, October 25, 2013

praying for husband

"Prayer isn’t the least we can do, it’s the most." -Randy Alcorn

Why do we sometimes have the tendency to resort to prayer as the last thing we do? As women, we are relational... we like to process things aloud, maybe with our husbands or a friend or in the blogosphere. What if I challenged that way of thinking and said we need to turn upward more than we turn outward?

As a married woman, one subject that I need to turn upward about is my husband. God has mercifully been reminding me of this recently, as I have "stumbled" across several posts/resources about this very topic... 

Prayers for the Journey: Ephesians edition
"A prayer and journaling journey for wives to take on behalf of their husbands."
by (in real life friend) Kimberly Campbell, from KD316

31 Days of Praying for your Husband 
"Satan desires to destroy your husband, especially his character and his leadership in your relationship. Trust God through prayer as you daily surrender your husband and marriage to the Lord’s wise, loving care."
by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, from Revive Our Hearts Ministry

And lastly, one I just recently found, put together in cute little carry cards. ;)

Prayer Cards for our Husbands
"Now before we even look at these cards, let's remember that we aren't trying to change who our husbands are we're sending them a gift of prayer. The purpose is that they are strengthened in every area of their lives so that they might be joyful, strong, effective and productive."
by Darlene, from The Time-Warp Wife

Now. There you go. No excuses (for me or for you). Part my prep for our school day includes personal time in the Bible and prayer time. I'm going to use one of these resources to daily commit my husband and my marriage to prayer consistently.

Monday, October 14, 2013

"leggo" of my lego

Just had a friend post on Facebook about legos last week... "All three kids happily building their own creations while I get caught up on some much needed cleaning."  ...which prompted me to clean off Z's train table, flip the board over, and dump out his box of legos on top today. "Get to work creating!," I told the kids this afternoon. Two and a half hours later I find them still at the table. Z had added in a few cars, but still they were playing together with the same toy for two hours. Ahh. All this after a full weekend away camping together. Sometimes at the conclusion of weekends like that they need their own "alone room time" but today they have done well getting back into the routine of school and playtime together this afternoon. 

L has gotten into the Lego Friends line, but today she just sat and made a horse (as well as a house and some other assorted things) with the traditional box of legos.  

One day I'd like to convert Z's train table into a lego table. Or, really, I'd just like to adhere a bunch of these base plates over the back of train board so it can be either. Not sure at what point little boys outgrow trains and turn to the lego craze? Z is into legos, but he'd still pick cars/trucks over either trains or legos!

Are your kids into legos? What age are they?

Friday, October 11, 2013

looking at the details

One of my favorite "toys" as an elementary kid was a microscope. I can't remember what age my parents purchased me a (starter-type) microscope, but I do remember there were countless numbers of things I adhered to a slide to look at under magnification... dead skin, a piece of hair, a dead mosquito, and whatever else I could get squished down small enough. Funny enough, the pull of microscope research wasn't enough to send me down that road professionally. I pursued a more relational field (human resources), but if I "had to do it all over again," I might be tempted to mix the two and go into genetic counseling. Random, and I digress, so back to microscopes!

This higher powered one is currently on loan from a friend, with the intent of purchasing should it make a good addition to our schooling. I think it's a keeper. We brought it home today. Despite my daughter's desire to rip into the boxes of slides and start investigation in trial-by-error fashion, I made her learn the parts and their functions first. We opened up the microscope and pointed out each, as I read and explained the function of each part (per the instruction manual). Ultimately, it was a good route to take. Z was able to hear that it was a "tool" and not a "toy" which means it must be handled carefully and responsibly, just like his grandfather's hammer and drill vs his play tools.

I think it will be really neat to have. Right now, our science curriculum doesn't require one, but most likely by the time we hit junior high (and for sure ninth grade biology), she will be able to incorporate that into her lesson work. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013


I think this must be one of the best (easiest) distraction "tools" in my house. Children squabbling? Younger student distracting the older student? Need a "right brain," creative activity?

Last year, I made a batch and it was good for the entire school year, however it was time for a new one. This time I added a color. Z chose green! Super easy to make, it takes longer to cool down than it does to mix up. The recipe below is one that has been used for years, both by the preschool I used to work in as a high schooler and now as used by me as a momma. :)  Probably not toxic to eat, it's definitely not an edible playdough, as it doesn't smell yummy. 

Homemade Playdough
(source: the Little School preschool)

1.5 c flour
3/4 c salt
1.5 tsp cream of tarter (a powder, in the spice aisle)
1.5 Tbs cooking oil
1.5 c water (opt: add in a few drops of food coloring here)

Mix all together.
Cook, stirring over medium heat on stove until boils and reaches a soft dough stage.

Take off heat, cool and put in airtight container.

Friday, October 4, 2013

mother/daughter service project

My daughter and I have decided to participate in a service project together. I have pulled out and dusted off the old knifty knitter set and we have committed to knitting at least half a dozen scarves for the Knit Together in Love project. You can see brief details in the image below and then after you sign up, she will send you all the details, including where to mail your scarves to, when you are finished! Click the image below and it will take you to the main blog post where you can watch a video and hear Ashley's heart on the project. We are super excited to be able to contribute to a large project like this - to touch lives (ultimately for the Gospel) all over the colder regions of the world!


The basket holding our work-in-progress...

Always eager to get involved, Z tried his hand at knitting too... (we might have to wait a few years to incorporate him in this service project though). ;)

Thursday, October 3, 2013


This is a dice activity that I found on Teachers Pay Teachers. I don't often head to that site (too much Common Core stuff *shudder*), but I have found some preschool freebies that I liked. This Roll and Color being one of them. This idea could be easily replicated! The idea is that the child rolls the dice, then colors in the corresponding numeral on the worksheet.
It gets them counting the "spots" on the dice while then having to recognize which number that is on the paper. Counting + number recognition = winner!

p.s. Regarding Common Core... if you've not read much about it yet, this is the best article I have read so far, in terms of warning America of it's dangers. I've not watch the referenced video, however.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

date nights

My husband has been super intentional this year regarding date nights with our daughter. I have really enjoyed seeing their relationship grow due to those dates. Whether it's dinner or ice cream out, hitting a token/game type place, or hiking out and hanging a hammock, his goal is to have time set aside with her that is open for them (her) to talk and spend time together. However, he will have a hard time topping this month's date! 

Earlier this summer, we snagged a groupon for two 30-minute horseback riding lessons. My 10yo daughter is a big horse fan (doesn't every girl go through this stage?!) As I type, we have about a dozen horse books checked out of the library - she enjoys learning about them, drawing them, and simply looking at the different breeds. So, this past Monday, my husband and (unsuspecting) daughter, headed off for a dinner date. This time they just grabbed a quick burger together. After dinner, they headed towards the stables (about a 30minute drive). She had no clue, but when she got there it was all smiles! They had her up on top of the horse for the whole hour she was there. She learned how to mount the horse, how to steer using the reins, how to stand in the jockey position, and a variety of other new-rider type things.

She must have had a ball because guess what's at the top of her Christmas list now? Horseback riding lessons! :)

Each daddy date night out, I likewise try and use that time I have alone with Z to intentionally pour into him. We haven't gone out to do anything special yet, but this week I said, "Let's go get some ice cream!" We don't usually get ice cream, and when we do, it's usually a "build your own sundae" type place. For some reason Z doesn't like those places. I don't think the ice cream is creamy enough for him. He's not a fan of the yogurt type consistency (of course!). He said he wanted to go somewhere that he could "get some bright colored ice cream!" lol. So, we headed towards an ice cream store that I thought might offer a selection like that. He also is a big fan of trying the flavor on those "little spoons." He chose green mint ice cream (which totally surprised me, I thought he'd go for the blue cotton candy one) and chose sprinkles for his topping.

It was good to the last melted sip!

When we got home, we had some time left before bedtime (as if he would go to sleep with sugary ice cream in his system!), so we played cars. He really wanted to make a traffic jam, so that's what we did! 

Be advised. The interstate is at a stand still due to an overturned truck. You might want to take an alternate route. ;) 

What are some places that your children like to go for a date night?